We’re Not in Kansas Anymore!

Everyone remembers Dorothy, having just arrived in Oz and being awed by the beauty, saying “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” Having been through a literal whirlwind of change, Dorothy found herself in a world very different from where she had been just moments before. Many of us have experienced a similar whirlwind of change – one that strikes at the core of how we do business.

We have all experienced rapid change in the way we work with others, due in part to changes in technology and in the economy. According to Randstad’s 2008 World of Work survey, employee anxiety is on the rise while perceptions of productivity are declining. For many employees, work can be a source of stress in even the best of times. So, if you have been feeling like “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” you’re right.

What are some ways to make the most of change?

Understand that change is inevitable

This isn’t new wisdom, but it is something too many of us still need to hardwire into our thinking. As depicted in the short film Shift Happens, we live in a time of rapid change, but too often continue to resist this change. The term “kaizen” is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and to sustain such improvement requires change. Leaders must be the ones to envision the needed change, model the change behavior, and ensure that change happens in a productive way. Remember the words of Benjamin Disraeli who said

Change is constant; change is inevitable.

Accept the past and move quickly

The Dakota Indians have a common wisdom that says when one is riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount. Too often, organizations tend to over-think this dilemma by implementing myriad strategies that ignore the horse. David Garvin and Michael Roberto of the Harvard Business School found that for change to occur in any organization, leaders must persuade others that change is necessary. They suggest that

A persuasion campaign is largely one of differentiation from the past.

Leaders must accept what has already occurred and be positioned to move quickly toward the future. We certainly won’t get very far riding a dead horse!

Ask the tough questions

The best leaders are not necessarily those who know all the answers or who can immediately see the best solutions, but are those who ask the right questions. In his blog, Seth Godin challenges leaders to ask “why?” Leaders of change must be the same way. Too often we fail to see what the future can be. John F. Kennedy once noted

Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

Ask the tough questions and seek insights that others refuse to explore.

Seize the opportunity

We need to embrace change as a mechanism for moving forward.  But change means risk, risk requires trust, and in leadership, trust matters. Building a culture of trust in an organization requires courage – the courage to give more than you take. Jimmy Buffett said it best,

You got to bend a little one way or the other, you got to leave your mind open to discover.

Leaders must be careful not to get caught in the trap of believing that old ideas will solve new problems. Discover creative solutions and don’t be afraid to take risk.

Since we are no longer in Kansas, and never will be again, it’s time to step up and accept change. Remember the words of Bruce Barton who said

When you’re through changing, you’re through.

How do you get others to be committed to change? How do you know when it’s time to get off the horse? Do you ask the tough questions? Does fear of risk hold you back? Please share your thoughts. I would love to hear them!

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins consults, writes, speaks, and teaches about leadership and organizational development.
He can be reached at

Image Sources: i36.tinypic.com, farm2.static.flickr.com


4 responses to “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore!

  1. My formula for change is Carrot and Stick approach. Whenever things disturb me ask the hard question – How can I change this. Once I have a reality check, I discover that I need to change somethings. Once I get to know what to change to help me take the first step I use Carrot and Stick approach. The steps are:

    1. Decide what I want to change

    Present State

    2. List all the pain associated to change
    3. List all the benefit for not changing

    Future State

    4. List down the cost of not changing
    5. List down the benefits of changing

    While writing for future, I use very emotional vocabulary to move me. Writing what you want to change really help to move towards it.


    Ayesha Habeeb Omer, PhD
    Chief Operating Officer

    Meet me at LinkedIn: http://in.linkedin.com/in/ayeshahabeeb


    • I agree the “carrot and stick” approach is a good means of facilitating change in ourself or in our organization. I have used a similar method whereby I was in the role of forced change (the “stick”) and gathered the team together to work through the change in a collaborative and productive manner (the “carrot”). I found this to be particularly effective. How do you include others in this approach?


  2. In order to get others committed to change a leader must recognize that they are encountering change from multiple sources; that developing personal competencies related to resiliency for individuals is necessary to successful change efforts; that people need to know first: “what is in it for me” before committing to the change.
    Since change is constant and inevitable the above factors must be recognized and resources provided to ensure that people are prepared to deal with change.


  3. Interesting thoughts… I can agree that change comes from multiple sources and the developing individual competencies relative to the change effort can enhance that effort. However, I caution against jumping to the conclusion of “what’s in it for me” as leaders can avoid this by having a strong vision and including others in that vision. This, in my opinion, is the essence of change.


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